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Centennial Olympic Park to host Atlanta’s 1st Chinese Lantern Festival

A Chinese Lantern Festival will light up Centennial Olympic Park with handcrafted giant flowers, a three-story pagoda and a 200-foot-long Chinese dragon.

As part of an ongoing celebration of Centennial Olympic Park’s 20th anniversary, the Georgia World Congress Center Authority (GWCCA) is unveiling a special, colorful wintertime event, which is coined as one of the Southeast’s first-ever Chinese Lantern Festivals. (A Chinese Lantern Festival will also be underway at the same time in Cary, N.C.) The Atlanta festival begins Dec. 9 and runs through Jan. 15. The festival is open from 6-11 p.m. each night. (Tickets can be purchased at the door up until 10 p.m.)

Entrance to the festival is at the corner of Andrew Young International Boulevard and Centennial Olympic Park Drive.

All of the colorful creations, including 25 decorated lanterns featured in the Chinese Lantern Festival, are constructed by artisans from China and will make Centennial Park come alive each night in the South Park area. The illuminated event is gated and tickets are $16 for adults and $12 for children. (A family of four can buy four tickets for $12 apiece.) Tickets are available online at and at the door. Combo tickets for the festival and ice skating or Sky View Ferris wheel are also available.

Artists will be stationed at booths throughout the park to create everything from edible sugar dragons to Chinese paintings. The festival will also feature nightly live entertainment, including acrobatics, dancers and theater performances.

Jessie Li, producer and project manager of the festival in Atlanta, said the festival is reflective of a traditional Chinese New Year celebration. She said the festival is designed to be an immersive experience with live performances showcasing authentic Chinese culture and history.

Li said musical performances will include the erhu, which has a history over 4,000 years, and even though it has only two strings is known to be an expressive instrument capable of conveying a wide range of emotions. There will also be plate spinning, which has a long history with Chinese acrobatic troupes.

Li, who lives in China, said the design and building of all of the pieces in the festival begin in Zigong, a small town in southwest China. Li said artists spend between 20 and 30 days welding pieces together, adding electrical wiring and lights, and selecting different fabrics for the pieces. While the smaller pieces such as the lanterns are made in China, other elements of the festival, including the large dragon body, arrive in pieces in shipping containers but are built and hand-painted here in Atlanta.

The festival will offer an opportunity to experience and learn about Chinese culture. For example, Li said information about how the lanterns are made and the meaning behind the designs such as the elephant symbolizing good luck in Chinese culture will also be on display.

“People will see and enjoy the atmosphere of a Chinese New Year, and the festival will bring people to the park and give people another way to enjoy the new year,” she said.


A Chinese Lantern Festival

6-11 p.m. Dec. 9-Jan. 15 (can buy tickets up until 10 p.m.). $16 adults; $12 children. (A family of four can buy tickets for $12 apiece.) Centennial Olympic Park: Entrance to the festival is at the corner of Andrew Young International Boulevard and Centennial Olympic Park Drive. Tickets are available at the door or online at

MORE: Where to find ice skating, tubing, other winter fun in metro Atlanta

MORE: “A Christmas Story” and other things to do this weekend

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